5 Must-Read Romance Books by Asian Women in 2021

Whenever you google a list of Asian books you always see the same thing: war stories, postcolonial sadness, and inherited trauma. While these books are vital stories needed in the literary canon, we deserve to have stories of radical joy. We deserve to read and watch characters like us fall in love. 

Thanks to the #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseBooks movements, there has been a resurgence of diversity across publishing. Romance, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Young Adult, and Mystery books finally have Asian, Black, and Latin characters written by Asian, Black, and Latin authors. 

Since it’s February, it’s only appropriate to celebrate by reading romance books. 

Here’s a list of some of my most anticipated and favorite romance books written by Asian authors. In this list, there are lighter romances that focus on emotional development and intimacy, while other books focus on what happens when the lights turn off. 

Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This steamy adult romance is not your average love story. In this novel, Stella Lane hires Michael Phan to teach her how to kiss—among other things. She’s always been focused on her work, never really spending her time and energy on building interpersonal relationships, especially romantic ones. Things start to change when she begins to develop feelings for her romance tutor, Michael.

This book is not for the faint of heart. This own voices novel is written by Helen Hoang, who like her characters, is Vietnamese and neurodivergent.

Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar


Photo credits:    @ohyouread on Instagram

Photo credits: @ohyouread on Instagram

Nishat is just your everyday Bangladeshi girl surviving her Catholic high school and the fact that her parents believe Muslim girls can’t be lesbians. To distract herself, Nishat throws herself into the school’s small business project. She starts a henna business since she always hennas during family events and holidays.

Enter Flávia, Nishat’s childhood friend. She returns to school and starts a competing henna business. Even though Flávia should technically be her rival, Nishat’s crush blossoms into something more.

This sapphic young adult novel manages to be light and enjoyable while tackling hard topics like cultural appropriation, racism, homophobia, bullying, and identity. This is Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel reflects her own upbringing as a lesbian Bangladeshi who grew up in Ireland.

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

This 320-page young adult novel is a whirlwind romance that takes place within 36-hours. Lucky is a popular K-Pop star who’s about to break into the American market. The pressure is on. For some stress relief and temporary freedom, she sneaks out of the hotel room to seek out what she’s been denied: a hamburger. She meets Jack, a 17-year-old paparazzo. At first, he sees a lost, beautiful girl, but when he realizes he might have a story that could make his career. On this wild night, these two characters connect while running around Hong Kong eating late-night meal after meal.

This is a fast-paced read with bubbling characters who are slowly beginning to understand their passions and defy expectations.

Like Lucky, Maurene Goo is a Korean American from California who writes romance young adult featuring Asian characters.

 

A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

Want an Adult Romance with small-town vibes? Something comfy and cozy with a slight edge? A good ol’ enemies to lovers trope?

Aubrey Choi owns a bakery in her small town. When an order gets mix-up, a food critic destroys Aubrey’s reputation. All her strict Korean parents’ worries come to life. To save her career, Aubrey agrees to a TV opportunity to boost her reputation. The catch? The guy offering this opportunity was her one-night stand. Double catch? He’s the food critic who wrote the nasty review.

Jayci Lee is a Korean American author based in California who has books slated to be published until 2022.

 

Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon


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Annika Dev is an app developer whose app is a virtual therapist. She’s having trouble with funding and might lose her business rental space. Meanwhile, her archnemesis moves next-door. His rival breakup app is skyrocketing in popularity and he’s on covers of magazines. The media pits their two apps together and they’re forced to occupy the same professional spaces. As they spend more and more time together, Annika can’t stop thinking about the summer conference they attended and what could be.

This goofy, light-hearted book is the perfect bridge for Lily Menon’s young adult fans to transition into adult romance novels. Menon is known for her young adult romantic comedies that have been adapted into Netflix series.

Grown-Up Pose by Sonya Lalli

Anu Desai was the perfect good girl growing up. She got good grades, went to a good school, went into a safe field, married someone who her parents approved of, and had a baby before she was 30. She always listened when her family told her: “Yoga is a hobby, Anu, not a passion” or “What kind of wife and mother teaches yoga?” One day, she woke up and couldn’t recognize herself. So, she and her husband separate while Anu rediscovers herself.

This second chance romance shines because isn’t about meeting someone and falling in love. This adult romance tackles the reality of diving into a relationship before getting to know yourself. This is not a typical, cookie cutter romance. It defies the odds and is a breath of fresh air in the genre.

This is also an own voices book written by an Indian Canadian author. Sonya Lalli has a new book, Serena Singh Flips the Script, coming out on February 16.

 

Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond

Photo Credits: @readlahwei and @hayaisreading on Instagram

This is a unique collection of interconnected short stories in the magical town of Hungry Hearts Row. This small-town is a smorgasbord of different restaurants, bakeries, and food stalls. This book is filled with magical soup dumplings, the mafia, brujas spread magic through pastelitos, and cooking competitions that can save a life.

In this young adult anthology, love is explored in all of its forms: romantic, familial, self, community, and platonic. Popular authors like Rin Chupeco, Sara Farizan, Sandhya Menon, and more are featured in this heart-warming, immersive collection.

 

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee

Out on May 4 2021, Meet Cute Diary is being compared to Felix Ever After and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

In this young adult romance, Noah Ramirez writes trans loves stories on an online blog to inspire other trans kids like him. When someone reveals the blog to be made up, Noah fake dates Drew. Everyone loves the slow burn of a fake dating trope.

This is Emery Lee’s debut novel. They are a Black Asian Latine writer.

 

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai


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Out February 16 2021, this is the newest book in Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series. Don’t worry, you won’t be lost if you haven’t read the previous two.

This adult romance follows Jia Ahmed who’s a rising beauty influencer. She moved to LA to prove to herself and her family that she can make it in the makeup industry. She’s too busy being a businesswoman to make any time for love. Until a soap opera star, Dev Dixit, slides into her DMs. Or so Jia thinks. When their DMs are leaked online, the two public figures make some public appearances to get the paparazzi to cool down, but neither party is ready for this fake romance to end.

Alisha Rai writes adult contemporary romance, erotica, and articles. If you like her Modern Love series, she’s got a good-sized catalog to have you occupied until her next release.

Associate Editor

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

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